Don’t Neglect Your Immunizations during the Pandemic

Family with a child

You may be a parent trying to keep up with your child’s health. Or an active senior citizen in retirement. Regardless of your age, immunizations are a vital prevention tool for everyone.

Making sure your immunizations are current is especially important during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic because underlying conditions can increase your risk for infection. Vaccines are also an effective way to protect you from other serious diseases. Scheduling a routine visit with your provider is one of the best ways to ensure all your vaccines are up to date.

How often do I need a routine physical?

Your routine check-up schedule depends on your age. Children should follow the recommended vaccination schedule of their pediatrician. Adults, ages 18-49, should visit their general physician once every two years. If you are 50 years old or older, schedule a physical exam every year.

How do vaccines work?

When you get a vaccine, your body creates an immune response to a particular virus or disease. This immunity protects you from that virus or disease in the future.

Are vaccines effective?

It’s important to understand that no vaccine is 100% effective.  For reasons related to each person’s immune response, not all vaccinated persons develop immunity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most routine childhood vaccines are effective for 85% to 95% of patients. Flu vaccines are more challenging. This is because of different flu types and mutations. On average, flu vaccines give a 50% reduction in the risk of flu for the general population. Although flu vaccines are not as effective as childhood vaccinations, they are still worthwhile.

Why are vaccines important?

Getting vaccinated is important because it is likely that you’ll build up antibodies against that specific infection. This can save your life. A certain percentage of people who get the vaccine don’t become immune. They and the people who can’t get vaccinated (i.e., infants, immune-compromised individuals, people undergoing certain medical treatments, etc.) will hopefully be protected by herd immunity. Herd immunity means that if enough people are immune to a disease, the disease will have a hard time finding anyone to infect. This causes the disease to die down. An estimated 70% of the population needs to be immune to COVID-19 for it to die down.

Recommended Vaccines

Vaccination schedules vary by age. To see a full list of recommendations, visit the CDC website. Your doctor can also recommend any vaccines you should get.

Make sure your immunizations are up to date. Set up a routine physical with your provider. Doctors’ offices are safe, ready and open to care for you.

 Scott Eden, MD, is a practicing family medicine physician at Anne Arundel Medical Group Chesapeake Family Medicine in Annapolis. He can be reached at 443-481-4080.